The Melvins

A Walk With Love & Death

I’ll not bore you with an extensive summary of the Melvins back catalogue – for one thing, I just don’t have the word count. Their latest offering, A Walk With Love & Death is their 25th, and their 14th in this century alone. Whatever you think of the band, you’ve got to admire that level of breathless productivity.

The Melvins have built a career on pushing proto-metal grunge to its extreme, creating their very own catatonic grunge genre in the process, something quintessentially Melvins-esque: no one sounds quite like the Melvins. New listeners coming to this might struggle with its almost impenetrable density; loyal fans are in for a few interesting surprises. It’s a double album, for starters, and one half of it is the soundtrack to a film. 2004’s Pigs of the Roman Empire was perhaps the last big experimental leap the Melvins made and while this doesn’t quite match it in terms of quality, it’s certainly a step in that direction.

The first part of the album, ‘Death’, is your typical Melvin’s outing. As drummer Dale Crover says, A Walk With Love & Death is "one giant, moody, psychotic head trip… You’ll sleep with the lights on after listening.” Indeed, with tracks titled ‘Christ Hammer’ and ‘The Asshole Bastard’, it isn’t a stretch to guess before even listening that the Melvins have made more songs to scare you senseless and make your cochleas weep. Their knack of taking you into a black-star grunge abyss is intact, but they’re making the listener work harder this time, with even more abstract lyrics and sounds than usual.

The second part of the album, ‘Love’, is arguably the more intriguing of the two, but don’t make the mistake of listening without watching the avant-garde film the songs accompany. As extensive experiments with noise go, they don’t work well without image. The short film is directed and self-produced by Jesse Neiminen and it’s exactly the kind of brilliantly surreal film you’d imagine the Melvins would write music for.

The tenacity and productivity of the Melvins is admirable, as is their ability to continue to push music into some of its darkest and most intriguing corners. What would be really interesting, though, is if the Melvins made fewer Melvins records and tried more projects like the one on the second half of A Walk With Love & Death. After 34 years, their output is at times just a little too breathless.

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